In the harbour
1. Liberal advertising
“Elections Nova Scotia is investigating a taypayer-funded mailout that promoted the work of Premier Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government,” reports the Chronicle Herald:
The large postcard-style flyers — all 33,000 of them at a cost of $7,000 — were last week sent to homes in the ridings of Cape Breton Centre, Dartmouth South and Sydney-Whitney Pier. Those three ridings just happen to be the locations of upcoming byelections, which are expected to be called in short order.
Weirdly, the flap brings Andrew Younger to the forefront. Explains the CBC:
Andrew Younger, the Liberals’s MLA for Dartmouth East, accused the NDP of a similar mail-out tactic in 2013 when the NDP was in power.
“This is a caucus communication sent out in unheld ridings,” Younger said. “The NDP did the exact same thing a few weeks ago.”
The NDP mailout arrived on doorsteps after the writ was dropped.
“Well, we’re very confident that we are compliant with what has been the practice of all parties previously and, in fact, even in the past few weeks with the NDP flyer that went out,” Younger continued. “We do feel we are compliant but we will respect whatever Elections Nova Scotia comes up with.”
2. Irving tax break
Halifax council yesterday gave “first reading” to a set of bylaw changes that will ultimately result in a tax break for Irving Shipyard. I explained the Irving deal at length here.
Council first debated the deal a couple of weeks ago, with the majority of councillors falling over themselves to praise the Irvings for bringing jobs to Halifax, for jumpstarting the economy, and for being so darn handsome, while a tiny minority of council thought that maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to bow down to big money.
There was no question that yesterday’s vote would go the same way, but just for the joy of it council spent another hour and a half praising the Irvings for bringing jobs to Halifax, for jumpstarting the economy, and for being so darn handsome, and the deal was approved on a 13-4 vote.
The deal will be finalized at the next council meeting, but only after council again praises the Irvings for bringing jobs to Halifax, for jumpstarting the economy, and for being so darn handsome.
3. Halifax is for sale
Also yesterday, Halifax council once again showed it thinks municipal identity has no or little value.
Council agreed to put construction of the planned Dartmouth four-pad arena out to bid. Which is all well and good — the city is in the business of recreation, residents play hockey and other ice sports, and a need is being met. People will disagree about the cost ($43 million), the size of the ice pads (one will be Olympic sized), the need to close neighbourhood rinks (Devonshire, Gray, Bowles, and Lebrun arenas will close when the four-pad opens), the location of the facility (Commodore Drive, wedged between Dartmouth Crossing and Burnside), and other details, but that’s how it goes; no solution will satisfy everyone, and the four-pad arena isn’t an outrageous plan.
But Dartmouth councillor Darren Fisher made sure to include in the motion a clause that basically everything associated with the arena — the overall complex, each of the ice pads, the concession stand, etc. — be put up for sale for naming rights.
“Look at the BMO Centre,” said Fisher. “Everyone calls it that. No one would think to call it anything else. That has value.”
Actually, I call it “That four-pad arena with the name of a fucking bank plastered on it,” but Fisher is right: corporate branding works. I’m continually amazed at how many people just rolled over and accepted the renaming of the Metro Centre for another fucking bank.
Every financial transaction involves a trade in value. The clerk at the Needs store is delightful and pleasant, but she isn’t just giving me that carton of milk out of the kindness of her heart — I have to place two bucks and change on the counter to make the deal whole.
But it’s not merely a one-on-one trade, a carton of milk for two bucks and change. When I hand over that money, I’m not just buying a carton of milk, I’m buying into a particular dairy system, the convenience store, the clerk’s salary, the cow, etc. We’ve rightly elevated awareness of local products for exactly this reason — we recognize that when we buy locally produced food and patronize local businesses, we’re supporting a particular economy (local farms and local businesses) over other possible economies (factory farms and big box stores).
Likewise, when we sell naming rights to a public facility, it’s not simply a one-on-one trade, a sign of a bank for a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Rather, we’re buying into the economy of finance, banks running the world. We’re trading our corporate identity and everything that goes with it — foremost, democracy and community — for the exact antithesis — the essentially fascist, top-down decision-making of corporations and the perverse values of the finance world.
Darren Fisher is right. Names have value. Our name is our identity. At the doorway to the meeting room, we pick up the sticker reading “My name is ___” and carefully write our name in the blank, before heading in to meet a room full of strangers. Would we put a false name in the blank? Possibly, as a joke, or to go incognito, but if we want to present ourselves, to be true to ourselves, we place our own name in the blank.
Only a fool would sell his identity.
4. Wild kingdom
“A two-year study conducted by scientists at the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre in Sackville found seven pollinators, never before recorded in the Maritimes,” reports the CBC.
The species are:
- Chalcosyrphus anomalus: The sample was collected in the Malaise trap in a treed pen near Pleasantfield. In Canada, it is known to be in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.
- Heringia intensica: Previously known only in Ontario and only from a few specimens. A single specimen was collected at Bowers Meadows.
- Microdon megalogaster: This species was collected in the Malaise trap in a Corema barren near Middle Ohio. In Canada, it is known to be in Quebec and Ontario.
- Parasyrphus semiinterruptus: Collected at two sites during the survey. It is widespread in Canada.
- Teuchocnemis lituratus: Collected in the Malaise trap in a Corema barren near Middle Ohio. In Canada, it is known to be in Quebec and Ontario.
- Xylota angustiventris: Collected in the Malaise trap at Cameron Lake. In Canada, it is known to be in Ontario and Quebec.
- Xylota flukei: Collected in the Malaise trap in a Corema barren near Middle Ohio. In Canada, it is known to be in Quebec and Ontario.
1. Narrows bridge
Peter Ziobrowski provides the history and pictures of the two railroad bridges that were built across the Narrows, connecting Halifax and Dartmouth. The first, completed in 1885, was destroyed in the hurricane of 1891. The second, constructed in just a year and opened in 1892, collapsed a year later, on July 23, 1893.
Community Design Advisory Committee (11:30am, City Hall)—the committee will be updated on the progress of the Centre Plan.
Heritage Advisory Committee (2pm, City Hall)—back in 2010, city council approved a $96,878 grant and a $203,033 tax credit for restoration of the facade of the old Freemason’s Lodge on Barrington Street. But staff rejected part of the owners’ application for the money, and now the two sides are haggling over $119,000 of the tax credit.
No public meetings.
Remember when Halifax wanted to get in bed with FIFA and host the Women’s World Cup? Good times:
ZURICH — Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation here Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges.
The charges, backed by an F.B.I. investigation, allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals.
The three most odiously corrupt organizations on Earth are FIFA, the Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics, in that order. And over the past couple of decades Halifax has tried to deal with each of them.
The NCAA is fourth on the list, but only because its reach isn’t international.
People get stupid about sports, and people with oversized egos get involved, a combination that allows for all sorts of shenanigans.
In the harbour
ZIM Alabama, container ship, arrived at Pier 42 this morning
Bochem Mumbai, Panama City to anchorage for gypsy moth inspection, then sails to sea
Auriga Leader, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport
ZIM Beijing, container ship, New York to Fairview Cove, then sails to sea
Acadian, oil tanker, Saint John to Imperial Oil
Torino sails to sea
Sina sails to sea
Halifax Express sails to sea
The cruise ship Pearl Mist arrived at Pier 22 this morning. It will sail off into the blue yonder this afternoon, its passengers content, and possibly sick.
I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 4pm.
I tried, unsuccessfully, to write an article yesterday. I’ll try again today, but between recording the podcast and being on the radio, I don’t know if I’ll find the time. Whenever I get to it, it’ll be fascinating, I promise.
Interesting about the “BMO Centre”. It was closed in late March due to heavy snow on the roof but reopened shortly after. I am frequently there and noticed a drastic difference upstairs. The the whole roof have shifted. All the doors to the rinks and bathroom stalls are all misaligned and very tight. I’ve heard nothing in the news regarding this severe damage to the structure. Considering the initially price tag and age of the building and life span still expected to be there, what is the plan? Will BMO be helping with this cost? Had the city decided to just ignore it like they have with the other building code violations?
Big new arena in Dartmouth should either be located more centrally or come with a good bus route that includes service whenever the arena will be in use – like evenings, early mornings, weekends, holidays. Also, where is the funding for our municipal museum? Any smart world class city would have a municipal museum.
The Irvings made it very clear to the city that without the tax deal they would contest the tax assessment forever in the courts, costing the city millions in legal fees (using the flaky premise that the site could not be repurposed and is thus over-assessed). This used to be called extortion, crony-capitalism, gangsterism…now it is BOLD!!!
I have a feeling that this is all a ruse. No ships are ever going to be built but because we have not fully transformed back into feudalism, we need some premise through which to give all of our wealth and resources to a handful of rich dudes.
Darrell, I think you can make the case that it is indeed extortion. There is a very straight forward process in place for property owners to appeal their assessment in the hope of reducing their taxes. First, they appeal their assessment to Nova Scotia Valuation Service. The city is not involved, hence no city lawyers or other staff members need to show up and spend city money. Secondly, if the property owner fails in this endeavour, they can appeal to the Utility and Review Board. Unless the city is granted intervener status city lawyers can’t even participate. Again no city time or money. Next, Irving could launch an action against Property Valuation Services in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. They can’t sue the city. Is not their problem. Finally, if Irving didn’t get what they wanted from NSSC they could take it to the Supreme Court of Canada. Again, no city involvement. I’m not sure if staff/city lawyers explained this to our councillors.
Ironically, if the city legal department was afraid to go up against Irving’s big, heavy hitter lawyers, there was absolutely no reason to fear.
Irving did appeal their tax bill, and that process was under way.
And, as I said, the city didn’t need to get involved. It is between Nova Scotia Valuation Services and Irving.
I have to confess to being somewhat confused as to the logic behind giving the Irvings a tax break on the shipyard.
Previous handouts aside, it seems that there’s a sense of “if they don’t get it, they’ll up sticks and leave”, but wouldn’t it be a lot harder for them to find another location with the same access to labour, infrastructure, and a deep harbour? Assuming they WERE able to find a location that checked all of those boxes, would it not cost them more to move than to simply pay their tax bill?
Aside from pandering (why yes, you ARE special!), what’s the rationale behind giving them a tax break to this degree? It seems that when they won the shipbuilding contract after a publicly financed advertising blitz, there was a chorus of “well now that we have the ship building contracts” in response to everything from skyrocketing rents and rising housing prices to justification of building expensive new infrastructure of debatable value to the city. I’ve yet to see any real positive effect on Halifax as a result of this contract, and now they’re threatening to up sticks and leave if we don’t let them off their taxes?
Maybe I’ve just misinterpreted the entire situation, because I can’t make head nor tail of it.
Are they allowed to move the contract elsewhere? Or is it tied to Nova Scotia?
RE: Railroad bridges
You can still see the pilings of the narrows bridges today, a team at BIO recently sonared the entire harbor, between the power plant in Dartmouth and the Richmond terminals:
So we can afford $40+ million (and they admit that the estimate is probably low) for hockey arenas but we can’t keep our roads and sidewalks clear of snow and ice? And we have an aging population (so the demand for sports facilities will decline over time…there are studies saying this, it’s not just me). Everyone drives on roads and uses the sidewalks…but if you look at the actual numbers of people using these “arenas” (really a Church of Sports) it’s by far a minority of the population. On top of THAT, they’re also used by middle and upper socioeconomic groups….so we’re privileging those with money again on the backs of those without. In my neighbourhood they built the Canada Games complex and then closed down the local community center. Apparently a large number of people now drive to Spryfield to use facilities there because they’re far cheaper to use than the CG complex. In 1967 we built arenas like the Centennial Arena….seats, concession stand, bathrooms, change rooms, parking….all of it affordable. Now we build palaces that are tremendously expensive to heat (and cool). You might support this sort of thing Tim, but until we get basic services straightened out building these facilities at those costs is folly.
Same thing in my area. The government built Lake and Shore Rec Centre and were going to close the community centre but the community fought back and took over the old one. Everyone uses the old centre because it is cheaper. The new one has had many structural problems. Costs twice as much and is never open. They tried to sell the naming rights to it as well but the community fought back against the initial try, probably will be more tires in the next while. The gym goes with the school so it would have been able to be used for community purposes anyway. Instead we have a $3 million dollar bill and gained nothing and lost so much.
How is our community better off?
The logical conclusion of selling naming rights is this: the name of the city.
Fun story: Dalhousie has an internal prohibition against selling the naming rights to faculties, for good reason. Sure you can buy the names of buildings, but there’s academic integrity to consider!
So a few years ago when the Schulich family wanted to buy the naming rights to the Faculty of Law, they did a little runaround: they created a “School of Law” to replace the Faculty, and sold that off. Good times.
Corporate BILLBOARDS on the FACE of PUBLIC buildings is nothing new.
The «new» (in the 70s) CN Rail station in Sydney announced itself as ««OLAND» in three-foot high illuminated red letters as the now long scuttled passenger train rolled up to the platform.
If one were suspicious of «The City of OLAND» destination description, a good deal of digging was necessary to determine the REAL identity. I hope, at least, Oland’s paid CN something more than a pittance for the ability to coerce and mislead CN’s passengers!
Perhaps you should consider changing today’s heading to “Fools and Our Money”
Setting aside the fact that there are pensioners and other low income citizens of Halifax who can barely pay their property taxes, it is just dumb for council to saddle the city with a deal like the gift that has just been given to the Irvings – a gift that will keep on giving for the next 25 years, or until the Irvings decide to leave town.
None-the-less, two of the most important elements in determining the value of a commercial/industrial property are utility and improvements on that property. Utility, refers to the available infrastructure and location that effects the possible uses of that property: For example, the proximity to major highways, rail lines or access to shipping lanes. So, the shipyards are substantially more valuable than an industrial site that does not have deep water access or a railway line nearby. Improvements refers to the buildings, rail spurs, parking lots and garages… So to claim that the Shipyards are somehow unique and therefore deserving of special tax treatment is absurd on its face. In one respect all properties are unique and the job of finding a value involves making adjustments for the differences – a difficult job, but one that can be achieved by using local comparables, not shipyards in other jurisdictions. The second consideration I mentioned is much easier. The value of improvements can be calculated quite easily in this case. Since the taxpayers gave the Irvings circa 300 million dollars for improvements we know the property – assuming the Irvings spent it all on improvements – is worth at least $ 300 million (less depreciation) plus the value of the land.
If I owned Cherubini metal Works on Pleasant Street I would be insisting on a better tax deal. Based on my preliminary calculations, Cherubini appears to be paying $ 32,440 per acre for their industrial property on the Dartmouth waterfront. And the Cherubini property is far more modest. Irving is paying $ 12,030 per acre. I expect a line up at City Hall, or the assessment office, of commercial land owners wanting a better tax deal.
The 25 year Nova Centre deal was bad enough, but the 25 year Irving deal is beyond the pale. I would respectfully request that council refrain from making any more long term deals. Just fix a few potholes and clear some ice and snow, please.
Political decision making has been subsumed by money and corporate interests.
PBS is replaying Ken Burns’ excellent Roosevelt doc. Wonder what Trust busting Teddy or New Deal FDR would have to say about the world we live in in these heady plutocratic times?
As long as citizens see government as a business (keeping costs low at…all costs) then councillors will continue to bend their own rules about development and anything else that generates “free” money for the budget. Correct me if I’m wrong but council likes development because it increases property tax revenue, therefore improving the balance of future budgets. Same logic applies to the naming rights of these buildings. It’s a source of cash to help pay for things like snow-clearing (!) and debts to concert promoters who go bankrupt.
I don’t mind taxes going up to cover the cost of services but I’m in the minority. If we’re gonna whore city-financed infrastructure out to the market – why not raise the price tag? Get some real dough coming in.
To be fair, Mayor Savage insists that there is no ‘deal’ with the Irvings. It is, in fact, an ‘arrangement’.